US struggles to repair image around world

Attitude least positive in Jordan

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Anti-US sentiment is firmly entrenched around the world, mainly because of President George W. Bush and his policies, to such a degree that even US humanitarian efforts do little to curb it, according to a poll released Thursday.
The latest Pew Global Attitudes survey report revealed negative attitudes about the United States are so strong, even among traditional allies such as the French and Canadians, that US aid to tsunami victims or Bush’s encouragement of democracy in the Middle East have done little to blunt them.

The report cited the reelection of Bush in November and the continuing war in Iraq — one of his major policy priorities — as the principal causes of the lingering anti-US feeling.

“The United States has a huge challenge at this point,” said former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright, co-chair of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

The survey, of some 17,000 people in the United States and 15 other countries from April 20 to May 31, found that the US image was much less positive than that of four other leading nations: France, Germany, Japan and China.

It also found that the reputation of US nationals was not as good as it once was, especially among Canadians, where 37 per cent said Americans were rude.

The poll’s margin of error was four per centage points.

This year’s results confirm the decline in the US image worldwide revealed in previous polls taken annually since 2002, most notably in western European and Muslim countries.

The United States received a 50 per cent or better favourable rating from respondents in only six of the 16 countries surveyed. In contrast, China received it from 11 countries, and France, Germany and Japan from 13 countries.

Attitudes towards the United States were most positive in India, with 71 per cent, and least positive in Jordan, with 20 per cent.

The notable exceptions were in Indonesia, where the number of people reporting a favourable image of the United States more than doubled from 15 per cent to 38 per cent in the wake of a massive US-led relief effort for tsunami victims late last year, and in Jordan, where only five per cent gave the United States a good mark last year.

In China, which was included in the poll this year for the first time, 42 per cent had a favourable opinion of the United States, nearly the same percentage as in France (43 per cent), Germany (41 per cent) and Spain (41 per cent).

The Iraq war continues to draw broad international opposition, and the United States and India are the only countries in which the largest share of respondents believed the removal of Saddam Hussein as Iraq’s leader had made the world a safer place, the report said.

It said Washington received little benefit from Bush’s efforts to promote democracy in the Middle East because of lingering anger over Iraq.

“A positive outcome in Iraq is absolutely vital,” Albright said. “It would make a huge difference.”

In predominantly Muslim countries, including NATO ally Turkey, antagonism towards the United States runs so deep that most respondents said it would be good if China emerged as a military power to challenge the United States.

Americans seemed to understand their country’s image problem, while at the same time appearing to reject it.

Only 26 per cent of those surveyed believe the United States is well-liked around the world. But 83 per cent of Americans showed favour in their own nation, second only to the 88 per cent of Chinese with a favourable image of China.

The results from western Europe indicate a deep anger at US policies which interferes with the ability of European leaders to cooperate with the United States and which weakens key US alliances, said Albright.

“This is not about values. This is more about policy differences and about power,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Centre, which sponsors the polling project.

Former Senator and US Ambassador to the United Nations John Danforth said many of the tensions spring from the war on terrorism since September 11, 2001, as others worry that the aggressive US approach leaves them vulnerable to attack.

“I believe that is at the heart of the problem that has been discovered in this polling information,” he said. “I don’t think that there’s anything personal in this.”

Consequently, Americans are left wondering how to respond when polls indicate others want to see the United States not respond to terrorist attacks at all, or abandon Israel or become weaker, he said.

“I don’t think we want to go that route,” he said.

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